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Cosmetology Requirements in Pennsylvania

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Cosmetologists provide a service to enhance the appearance of their clients. Hairstylists and barbers are cosmetologists who focus on hair care, cutting and styling. Nail technicians specialize in manicures, pedicures and nail art, while estheticians, or skin care specialists, provide facials, massages, makeup application, waxing, and may handle microdermabrasion or laser treatments. In Pennsylvania, all cosmetologists must receive professional training and pass a state licensing exam before they can perform services for a fee as an independent contractor or employee of a salon.

Licensing Requirements

Pennsylvania's State Board of Cosmetology operates under the act of May 3, 1933, also known as the Cosmetology Law. The board issues six licenses under the act, including cosmetology teacher, limited practice teacher, cosmetologist, esthetician, nail technician and natural hair braider. Anyone working in any of these capacities within the state requires a license, which must be displayed in a conspicuous place. A license renewal application and fee are required in order to maintain the license as registered.

Requirements for State Exam

To obtain one of the six licenses, a cosmetologist must pass the exam required by the board. The exams take place monthly in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and other locations established by the exam administrator, according to the Pennsylvania Code, the state's official publication of rules and regulations. A cosmetologist must be 16 years of age or older, must have completed a tenth-grade education or its equivalent, and must have completed between 1,250 and 2,000 hours of instruction in cosmetology, depending on the type of program.

Physical Requirements of Cosmetology Salons

In Pennsylvania, a cosmetology salon with one licensee must have at least 180 square feet of space, and 60 square feet for each additional licensee. It must have adequate lavatories within the square footage, be well-lit and ventilated, and "be maintained in a safe, orderly and sanitary condition," according to the Pennsylvania Code. A salon must display a conspicuous sign indicating it is a cosmetology salon, at or near the entrance. Individuals, equipment, towels, and supplies must be sanitized.

Business and Ethics Requirements

Pennsylvania's Cosmetology Law requires licensees to service customers, regardless of "race, color, religious creed, ancestry or national origin." They may not be refused "any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of a cosmetology, esthetician, nail technology or natural hair braiding salon." A cosmetology salon must be managed by the salon owner or designated individual and their name must be posted in a conspicuous place in the salon. They must also be readily available to inspectors from the state's Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, during business hours, according to the Pennsylvania Code.


K.C. Hernandez has covered real estate topics since 2009. She is a licensed real estate salesperson in San Diego since 2004. Her articles have appeared in community newspapers but her work is mostly online. Hernandez has a Bachelor of Arts in English from UCLA and works as the real estate expert for Demand Media Studios.